Our editors independently research and rate the best products. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made through the links on our site. Learn more

tips buying computer

10 Tips For Buying A Computer in 2021

Author: Robert Wilson

Electronics & Peripherals Expert

Computers are an essential part of our daily life. Especially in office environments, but also at home, you need fast PCs to work or to use multimedia offers such as YouTube. When buying a computer, you should make sure that you get the right PC or laptop.

Unfortunately, computers are technical devices and therefore no longer state of the art after a few years. When the PC was bought five years ago, it was still the best in its class, fast and quiet, today it can meet the requirements of many software programs ask, maybe no longer keep up.

If you need a new PC but don’t know what to look for when choosing, you’ve come to the right place. We explain to you what is important when buying a computer.

Perhaps you are still faced with the question of whether a desktop PC or a laptop is better for you and your needs. First of all, you should ask yourself the following questions: Do you always work at the same workplace, or sometimes in the company, sometimes in the home office, sometimes in a café? Do you work with very powerful programs such as CAD programs, or are you a gamer? Do you need very powerful graphics cards? Or are light programs like MS Office sufficient for you?

Advantages of PCs:

  • Cheaper than laptops: prices for good PCs start at US$300 – US$400
  • Expandable at any time, as retrofitting graphics cards or hard drives is usually not a problem
  • Floor-standing PCs have more power at a better price / performance ratio and are better suited for large programs and games
  • Monitor, mouse and keyboard are freely selectable and do not necessarily have to be purchased again when changing computers
  • Stand PCs can be easily screwed on and cleaned

Advantages of laptops:

  • They are agile and can be taken anywhere
  • Laptops don’t necessarily need a power outlet and can run on battery power for up to 12 hours

Notebooks are harder to clean and upgrade. They usually have to be sent in to the manufacturer for repairs, which can sometimes take several weeks.

High-performance laptops are more expensive than stand-alone PCs: Good standard laptops, which are suitable for word processing programs and for surfing the Internet, start at US$400. If you really need the laptop to work or want to watch movies on it, you shouldn’t spend less than US$700 on it.

As an alternative to the classic tower, there are also mini-PCs that are only the size of a small box. They can easily be placed on the desk next to or behind the monitor. Of course, this looks much better than classic computers and saves space (but be careful, the connection cables should be laid neatly!). You don’t have to compromise on performance with mini PCs. The only disadvantages are that they cannot be expanded individually and additional drives have to be connected externally.

2. The Processor: The Heart Of A Computer

Choosing the right processor determines the overall performance of the PC and is therefore an important factor when buying a computer.

What is a processor?

The processor is also known as the CPU (Central Processing Unit). The CPU serves as the central processing unit to process commands. It is not only found in computers, but also in many electronic devices such as washing machines, dryers and other household appliances (Internet of Things, IoT 4.0).

The two best known manufacturers of CPUs are Intel and AMD. Processors perform arithmetic operations and control parts of the computer. Since the processor only understands binary codes, ie. only zeros and ones, every number or digit has to be rewritten into a binary code, which is then processed by the processor.

The rhythm or the clock frequency of a processor determines the performance of the computer. The higher the clock frequency, the faster the processor processes commands. The speed of the rhythms is measured in Hertz. One hertz is one cycle per second. Computers usually make noises when they are working. The fan, which has to cool the processor, is often responsible for this.

At high clock frequency speeds, high heat losses occur, which have to be compensated for by a fan. Otherwise the processor can be damaged.

Which processor is right for me?

You need to consider beforehand how much power you will need and for what purpose you will be using your computer. Is it a pure business PC with simple word processing programs? Would you like to use high-performance software such as CAD programs, graphics programs or a document management system? Or should it be a gaming PC? The more demanding the requirements, the more powerful processors should be chosen.

In order to increase the performance of processors, several processors are connected together without increasing the clock frequency. One then speaks of multi-core processors. A distinction is made between single-core processors (single-core), double-core processors (dual-core), four-core processors (quad-core), six-core processors (hexa-core) and eight-core processors (octa-core), or a higher combination.

As a rule, the more processors are connected, the better the performance (there are limits here because the processors again have to be controlled!). Your new PC should therefore not have less than dual core. Multi-core processors are better. Intel produces good processors in different classes and differentiates between Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 and Core i9. It is also important to distinguish between the processor generation within the i family: e.g. i7 – 7th generation, or 8th generation. There are clear differences in performance and power consumption here, and you should usually opt for a processor of the latest generation.

There are big price differences between computers with the respective processors.

In principle, i5 processors are suitable for good business PCs and laptops. I7 is only required for intensive use and for games. Laptops with i3 processors will hardly be available on the market in 2020. The trend is therefore of course towards more powerful processors, which should be considered when buying a computer.

Tip: We recommend i5 or i7 processors in most cases.

3. RAM For More Performance

The choice of RAM is also an important criterion for the speed of the PC. If possible, you shouldn’t save on the main memory, because if this becomes scarce and data has to be temporarily stored in other storage media, the work processes become much slower. With enough memory you can work more smoothly and relieve the system.

What is RAM?

RAM is the memory in a computer that contains the programs or program parts to be executed and the data required for them. The processor accesses the main memory (or main memory) directly, so the size and performance are of decisive importance for the overall performance of the PC.

Also called “RAM” (Random Access Memory), all running processes and programs are temporarily stored in the main memory. A RAM module usually has 1, 2, 4, 8 or 16 gigabytes of memory. 4 GB RAM is sufficient for very low requirements. However, we recommend at least 8 GB of RAM for PCs and laptops. RAM is relatively cheap and can be easily upgraded in stand PCs. Our tip: Do not save on RAM, otherwise you will be annoyed by slow processes.

Tip: Under no circumstances save on the size of the RAM – 8 GB is a sensible figure for normal PCs.

4. Which Hard Drive Is The Right One - HDD or SSD?

While the processor is often referred to as the heart or brain of the computer, the hard drive is the memory. Data is stored on hard drives. A distinction is made between SSD (Solid State Drive) and HDD (Hard Disk Drive) hard drives. The classic HDDs consist of one or more magnetic disks and a read head each. While the magnetic disks rotate during operation, the reading head moves over the disks and reads out the stored data.

SSDs, on the other hand, consist of many flash memories that are also built into USB sticks. For some years now, SSDs have been increasingly used because they have huge advantages over HDDs. Since no mechanical parts are built into SSDs, they are much more robust than HDDs. While defects and data loss are inevitable when HDDs fall, SSDs are much less sensitive.

The most important factor that speaks for an SSD, however, is that it works significantly faster than a classic hard drive, namely up to twice. In addition, SSDs are lighter, more efficient and therefore use less battery. HDDs are (still) cheaper than SSDs and offer (even) more storage space. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend a powerful SSD, also with a view to the future.

256 GB SSD is sufficient for simple word processing, 512 GB SSD is recommended for more storage requirements. If you should opt for a classic HDD, it is best to grab at least 1 TB of storage space right away, or choose the hybrid solution, an SSHD.

Tip: With SSD hard drives you can work more smoothly and invest in the future.

5. Graphic Card

Graphics cards are responsible for generating the graphics output, i.e. for rendering the individual images (also known as “frames”). A graphics processor, or GPU for short, is built into the graphics card. The GPU performance also determines the price of the graphics cards. The GPU takes over the delivery of the images that were previously communicated to it by the CPU (processor).

When choosing the right graphics card, the intended use is again decisive. Similar to the CPU, there are huge price ranges for graphics cards. If you are not a gamer or use other graphics-intensive programs, the graphics cards installed in most desktop PCs and laptops are sufficient. These are mostly models that are a little older.

Nevertheless, they are able to meet the most common home and business applications. If you use graphics-intensive programs such as CAD programs, image processing or playing games, then you should invest in a high-quality graphics card. As a rule of thumb, it can be said that the CPU and GPU should fit together. So computers with a powerful CPU also need a graphics card with a powerful GPU and vice versa. Otherwise the performance that is given by a strong CPU cannot be exhausted.

High-end graphics cards for gamers are manufactured by ASUS and AMD, for example. They are characterized by particularly high performance values ​​and are usually relatively expensive.

6. Interfaces

Make sure that the PC has USB 3.0 / 3.1 and HDMI / DVI interfaces. This allows most devices and monitors to be connected to the computer. Multiple USB interfaces are ideal so that you can connect the most common devices such as mouse, keyboard, printer and USB sticks in parallel.

7. Monitor

If you need a new monitor, you should make sure that the PC has the appropriate interface. Monitors can usually be connected to the computer via DVI or HDMI. When choosing the right monitor, size is important. Screens in office environments usually have a size of 22 “- 27” (inches).

In addition, monitors differ in many factors. You should make sure that the monitor has an anti-glare coating, as non-anti-glare monitors can irritate the eyes during long periods of work. Other important features are brightness and response time. The response time should not be more than 5 milliseconds in order not to make work difficult. Brighter displays are better in bright environments.

There are height-adjustable monitors and monitors that can be tilted. Height adjustability is definitely recommended for ergonomic work. There are now also monitors that filter the blue light. Blue light is harmful in the long run, so this is another useful feature.

8. Operating System

Many PCs are delivered with the operating system already installed. This is usually Microsoft Windows 10 or 8, or Apple OS. Some PCs do not have an operating system pre-installed. You should pay attention to this if you need one and do not want to have additional costs.

9. PC Accessories: Mouse & Keyboard

You also need a mouse and keyboard for a stand PC. Wireless keyboards and mice are practical because they only require a USB interface and there are no cables in the way. In theory, you don’t need a mouse for laptops if the included touchpad is sufficient.

10. Quality Pays Off When Buying A Computer

Pay attention to quality! When it comes to computers, the sentence is correct: if you buy cheap, you buy twice. Because a wrongly configured PC is quickly noticeable. Very cheap PCs often come up with good performance data, but the components used are usually cheap and have defects after a short time. Then when you have to take your computer in for repair, it becomes expensive.

We therefore recommend using high-quality manufacturers who use components from other well-known manufacturers. In addition, your PC should have a two-year guarantee (laptops usually only have a one-year guarantee).

Now you know what to look for in the first place when buying a computer.